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« Two Argumentative Indians | Main | The Social Virus of Terrorism »

November 22, 2008


I am a huge fan of Ramayan and Mahabharat. Sita was always an enigma for me. Although the whole Ramayan saga unfolds around her misfortune, we don't really get a glimpse of her mind - except on a couple of occasions. One is the cruel outburst against Lakshman when he declines to go searching for Ram during the fateful hunt for the golden deer and the other, when she commits suicide rather than submit to the humiliating trial by fire to prove her chastity a second time. An Indian writer once compared her value to zero (shunya). According to her, Sita is nothing by herself but increases the worth of Ram by an order of magnitude when she appears after his name.

Also, did you know that some linguistics / anthropology scholars in India have speculated that Sita may have been of Chinese origin? Repeated references to her "unusual" beauty and the Maithili / Poorvia pronunciation of her name, "Sia", are apparently clues to her non-Aryan ethnicity. The ascetic king Janak may have adopted her from a Chinese family. We know she was not his biological daughter - he found her while plowing the field, remember? Also, the kingdom of Mithila is generally believed to be the region in southern Nepal and northern Bihar on both sides of the Himalayan border. The actual city of Mithila is supposed to be the modern town of Janakpur in Nepal. So, all this may not be idle speculation.


My readings of both epics have been strictly in Bengali. Read them in the verse form first - Krittibas for Ramayan and Kasi Ram Das for Mahabharat. I would say the approach in both was more literary than scriptural - at least that's how I took them to be. Later in my teen years, I read the harder, more scholarly Bengali prose translation of Mahabharat by Kali Prasanna Singha in old Bengali and by Rajshekhar Basu who tackled it in contemporary Bengali. Both are excellent. I have never read either epic in English. So, I don't have a suitable recommendation for you.

Sita's story aside, wasn't Nina Paley the subject of some controversy with the VHP-types denouncing her for a Kali cartoon?

Hi Sujatha,
I hadn't heard. Just did a quick search and found the offending cartoon and one expression of the offense it caused (see other things they have protested — some are hilarious, like the SBI ad). Paley has replaced the Kali cartoon on her site with this page.

The Intel mouse doesn't look like Ganesh to me. More like someone sketched a virtual pair of ears and a tail to make it look like a real mouse. If anyone knows of a Ganesh computer mouse, please let me know. Would very much like to have one - love Ganesh. For a lingam - yoni worshipping population, aren't these folks getting a bit unnecessarily worked up?

When I was a child, often on Saturdays we would see men dressed in full Kali regalia running around, terrorising and extorting money from unsuspecting passers by. Heidi Klum was looking rather nice and glamorous and non-threatening in comparison I thought.

Does anyone know the current whereabouts of M.F. Hussain? Is he still in exile?

Don't know about Ganesh computer mice, but I'm sure that the good folks at the Hindu Janajagruti Sangh would be appalled to know that I had kids do a Ganesha craft involving glue and colored sand (if they were throwing a fit at the use of pulses and mustard seeds, I imagine that nothing less than gold foil and precious stones would satisfy them. Out with the stone statues, since stone isn't grand enough for their favored deity!)
Incidentally, today's news had them persuading the Goa governor to stop screening an MF Husain made documentary.
MF Husain is still in the doghouse, I guess.

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New Book by Namit Arora

  • The Lottery of Birth reveals Namit Arora to be one of our finest critics. In a raucous public sphere marked by blame and recrimination, these essays announce a bracing sensibility, as compassionate as it is curious, intelligent and nuanced.” —Pankaj Mishra

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